When Derrick Lewis takes on Ilir Latifi at UFC 247, it won’t be the first time he’s squared off with a member of American Top Team.
In 2015, Lewis took on then-ATT heavyweight Shawn Jordan. At UFC on ESPN+ 4 this past March, he fought former heavyweight champ Junior Dos Santos.
Lewis’ history with the Florida-based gym extends outside of competition, however. ATT fighters like Greg Hardy have also exchanged words with Lewis, leading “The Black Beast” to believe the MMA faction is out to get him.
“I’m guessing (Latifi called for a fight with me) because I heard he’s training at American Top Team,” Lewis said in a recent interview with “UFC Unfiltered.”. “All of those guys have been calling me out left and right. Just about everybody over there – Greg Hardy, him, Junior Dos Santos. What’s the other guy’s name – the crazy one that just fought? Colby … They got a hit out on me.”
“Even Shawn Jordan (was) over there, too. They’ve been training for me for years – all their guys. Just about every guy over there I’ve fought already. They feel like they’ve got the recipe out on me.”
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So why does Lewis believe he’s been a target for ATT fighters?
“They look at me like the weakest in the top-five – a more easy fight for them,” Lewis said. “That’s how I look at it.”
As for the upcoming Feb. 8 matchup, Lewis pointed out the expected size differential between him and Latifi. The 5-foot-8 Swedish fighter will move up from light heavyweight to make his divisional debut in Houston.
“I believe he’s just a small guy,” Lewis said. “I’ve fought small guys before. He’s probably going to be the smallest heavyweight I’ve fought in a long time. He’s an explosive guy and a great wrestler, so I’ve still got to be prepared for anywhere the fight goes.”
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While Latifi is getting heavier, Lewis indicated he’s actually been getting lighter. The days of cutting 25 pounds to hit the heavyweight limit are no longer.
“I lost 20 pounds in two months,” Lewis said. “I’m feeling healthier than I’ve ever felt, as well. I really don’t have to cut to make heavyweight no more. I was cutting all the way from 290 to 265.”
UFC 247 takes place at Toyota Center in Houston. The main card airs on pay-per-view, following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+